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Dutch Oven Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork)

Slow-cooked in a dutch oven, this pulled pork recipe uses a wet rub of Mexican spices to deliver a smokey, savory, slightly sweet taste to carnitas perfect for tacos! Grab authentic flavors of Mexican Pulled Pork, minus the lard, from the comfort of your dutch oven. Make every day Taco Tuesday with this dish, Tortilla Lasagna, or taco chili!

Pulled pork is delicious on a bun, but we prefer it on tacos of all kinds!

The dutch oven outdoes itself yet again. This Mexican Pulled Pork recipe is perfect for Pork Enchiladas, Pork Tacos, and even a Pulled Pork Sandwich using homemade white bread! Whatever you eat it with, even if that’s just a fork, you’ll be sure to add this to the meal plan at least once per month.

What are carnitas?

Carnitas translated is small pieces of braised pork. This is what Americans would call pulled pork. It is traditionally, a large Boston butt that has been heavily seasoned and slow-cooked to the point of pulling apart effortlessly.

How to make Pulled Pork in the Dutch Oven

Slow-cooked pulled pork is similar to pulled pork prepared in a slow-cooker or instant pot.

  1. Start by making your rub. This can be a dry or wet rub. We chose a sweet, smokey, somewhat spicy homemade Mexican wet rub for this Boston butt.
  2. Dry your pork butt with a paper towel and score the fat typically found on one side of the pork.
  3. Massage the wet rub all over the pork and set aside at room temperature for as close to an hour as you can.
  4. Chop your onions or other vegetables for your base. You can also use peppers of all varieties, or carrots. In lieu of adding onion powder to the rub and searing, I simply placed the pork on onions in the dutch oven.
  5. To sear: Heat the dutch oven on the stove-top with a couple of tablespoons of bacon grease or oil, and sear the pork on all sides. Then remove, add your vegetables of choice, and slide into the preheated 225-250F oven with the lid on, onto the center rack.
  6. To skip searing: Preheat the oven to 225-250F, place your Boston butt in the dutch oven over the bed of vegetables with the lid on; slide the dutch oven into the oven on a center rack and start the timer.

Tips for creating the best pulled pork

  • Let your pork sit at room temperature for an hour before cooking to ‘marinate’ in the rub.
  • Cook your pulled pork to an internal temperature of 195F. This is a bit higher than typical but it assists in the collagen really breaking down and allowing the meat to be ‘fall off the fork’ tender.
  • Low and slow is the name of the game. Set the oven for 225-250F and plan for 1-2 hours per pound with bone-in pork butt on the longer side of the 2 hours.
  • Cook covered to maintain moisture and prevent burning, browning, or drying out.
  • Always yield to the thermometer. While I allowed for 1-2 hours per pound, I did not need all the time I allotted. It was done a bit sooner than expected based on the thermometer reading. That’s okay. Always go with the thermometer or you’ll risk dried out pork!
  • Cook fat side up. This is supposedly by preference and not science. I will say that I believe it stands to reason that as the meat is cooked, all that fatty, juicy goodness is going to go down, over, and into the pork because of gravity and heat. Just saying.
  • Searing your meat is optional but can add a wonderful crunch, add an extra layer of caramelization, and help to retain the moisture.
Don’t forget about the juices in the pan. Freeze the juice with the meat when storing.

How to store, freeze, and reheat pulled pork

Mexican pulled pork can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to five days. You can also vacuum seal it or store in a gallon freezer-safe Ziploc bag for up to three months. Just make sure to prep for freezing when the meat has cooled to room temperature and get all the air out that you can.

Nothing complements a hot piece of meat like fresh vegetables and lime juice!

How to reheat and make crispy carnitas

To reheat the pulled pork from the freezer, remove it the night before and allow it to thaw in the refrigerator. Once thawed, add 1-2 tablespoons of oil or grease to a skillet over medium-low heat and heat through. If you have some leftover dry rub, add a teaspoon in with some lemon juice to bring the flavors back to life.

How to serve Mexican Pulled Pork

Tacos, burritos, enchiladas, are always a favorite! I wish every day was Taco Tuesday. But here are some of my ALL TIME favorite ways to serve pulled pork plus a bonus drink pairing:

My girl at Backyard Bohemian knows how to make an amazing pulled pork bowl! Use this pulled pork recipe and follow hers for the rest!
If you love the spicy, sweet combo in the pulled pork then you need this show stopper of a margarita to wash it down!
Grab some tortillas, sweet mango, fresh lime, and purple cabbage for a Taco Tuesday the whole family will love!
close up of the seasoned and cooked shredded pork
4.75 from 4 votes

Dutch Oven Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork)

Take a trip to South America in your own kitchen with the smells and taste of Mexican Pulled Pork. Perfect for tacos if you can resist eating it all straight from the dutch oven!
Print Recipe
Prep Time:15 mins
Cook Time:6 hrs
Resting Time:30 mins
Total Time:6 hrs 45 mins

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 2 yellow onions cut into eigths
  • 6 pound Boston butt boneless or bone in
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 7.5 ounces Chili Peppers in Adobe seasoning canned
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Mexican oregano can substitute Italian oregano if needed
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 Tablespoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 Tablespoon sea salt

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 225-250F. Cut the two onions into 1/8ths. Layer one onion in the bottom of the dutch oven while setting the other onion to the side.
    adding the cut onions to the pot to cook
  • Place the reserved onion, canned chilis, olive oil, and other seasonings into a food processor. Blend on high until a loose paste is formed.
    adding in the spices to the food processor to blend
  • Pat the pork dry with a paper towel and score fat on one side with a sharp knife. Use your hands to massage the wet rub into the pork on all sides.
    using your hands to rub the spices on the pork
  • Place in your dutch oven ontop of the onion slices (fat side up) and allow to rest at room temperature for as close to an hour as you can stand.
    putting the raw pork into the pot on top of the cut onions
  • Place in the oven on a center rack with the lid on. Cook for 1-2 hours per pound, until the internal temperature reaches 195F.
  • Allow to rest 30 minutes upon removal from the oven and shred with two forks. Try not to eat it all on the spot and serve in your favorite Mexican dishes.
    Taking the cooked pork out of the pot to let cool on a white plate

Nutrition

Calories: 570kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 65g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 204mg | Sodium: 1033mg | Potassium: 1309mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 2591IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 89mg | Iron: 7mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Keyword: boston butt, carnitas, mexican, pork, pulled pork, tex mex
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 570kcal
Author: Katie Chase

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6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I currently have this slow cooking in the CI in the oven.
    I have 1/2 a hog, so I used one of the Hocks and the Shoulder for this. I used fresh Garlic and Ground the cloves myself. The spice mix is fabulous, flavorful and the aroma is perfect! I’ll let you know how it turns out.

    1. 5 stars
      It came out GREAT!! I’ve already passed it along to a friend!!! I’m definitely saving this recipe! Thanks

    1. Pork ribs will certainly cook differently and you shouldn’t need to cook them as long. But the seasonings will be delicious!

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